WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders missed the filing deadline for the final primary of 2016 — in the District of Columbia — but local Democratic Party leaders said Thursday it was their mistake and that Sanders' name will appear on the ballot on June 14.
Candidates can get on the ballot in the nation's capital by submitting petitions or by paying a $2,500 fee to the local Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton's campaign did both. The Sanders campaign paid the fee.
Anita Bonds, the chairman of the D.C. Democratic Party and a D.C. Council member, said the Sanders campaign paid the fee by the March 16 deadline, but the party didn't submit information to the D.C. Board of Elections until the next day, following its customary practice because the party accepts payments after the election board closes for the day.
"There was a misunderstanding between the elections office and the party over the filing deadline," Bonds said in a statement.
The elections board updated its list of candidates to add Sanders' name after the deadline, which prompted Robert Vinson Brannum, a schoolteacher and activist, to file a challenge with the board arguing that Sanders shouldn't be included.
"We did what the D.C. law requires in order to get Bernie on the ballot and we are confident he will be on the ballot," Michael Briggs, Sanders' communications director, said in an email.
Clinton, long considered the favorite for the party's nomination, has a 701-delegate lead over Sanders, which includes delegates won in primaries and caucuses and superdelegates, who can support the candidate of their choosing. Clinton is 671 delegates short of the threshold needed to secure the Democratic nomination and, barring a series of lopsided victories by Sanders, is likely to have reached that threshold before the city's primary.
Brannum's challenge, which refers to Sanders with the name "Bernie" in quotation marks, said it was unfair to other candidates for the board to accept late filings.
"To permit late filings is an injustice to the collective electorate of the District of Columbia and is unacceptable to District of Columbia voters," Brannum wrote in his challenge. "The time has come to break up the intellectually dishonest perception election laws in the District of Columbia can be bought. To accept late filings perpetuates inequality and the protection of status quo election shenanigans."
The board will hold a hearing next week on whether to accept Brannum's challenge. Meanwhile, Bonds plans to address the issue through emergency legislation that she will propose at next week's D.C. Council meeting. The bill would clarify that the local party has a 24-hour grace period to notify the elections board that a candidate has filed for the ballot.
"We look forward to a successful primary where supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will be able to have their voices heard," Bonds said.
Approval of the bill would not appear to be an issue. The Council is composed of 11 Democrats and two liberal independents. The city's mayor, Muriel Bowser, is also a Democrat.
Associated Press writer Kasey Jones in Baltimore contributed to this report.
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